The EU referendum

By now, we all know that the UK narrowly voted last week to leave the European Union. The result has opened up huge fault lines in both the economy and the body politic, which will take much time and much hard graft to resolve. It has also created a great deal of personal uncertainty and anxiety for many individuals.

Our Member of Parliament, Heidi Allen, has called a public meeting for this Saturday. She writes:

Following the result of the Referendum I have received an unprecedented level of emails from constituents who are greatly concerned about their future and that of the UK. In order to facilitate a discussion I have arranged an open meeting to enable residents of South Cambridgeshire to express their concerns.

Due to the number of emails I have received I will be posting a detailed response on my website towards the end of the week which I hope will address the concerns raised and I will update my website as and when more information becomes available from the Government.

Saturday 2 July 2016, 16.00 – 18.00

South Cambridgeshire Hall, Cambourne Business Park, Cambourne, Cambridge CB23 6EA.

Parking available.

For details of how Queen Edith’s voted, see http://cambridgecityqueenediths.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/07/02/eu-referendum-how-queen-ediths-voted/

All aboard the Abbey-Addenbrooke’s Express!

115 busGood news! We’re getting a new bus service. Starting next month, the new 115 service, run by Whippet, will run hourly between the Newmarket Road Park & Ride site and Addenbrooke’s Hospital. The bus will stop at both Long Road and Hills Road sixth form colleges, St Bede’s and the Perse. In the other direction, it drops you off at shopping and leisure destinations such as Sainsbury’s, Mill Road, the Abbey Pool and the Cambridge United football ground.

The new service is a trial, funded by Section 106 developer contributions and will be made permanent if there is good take-up – so if you enjoy shopping, swimming or soccer, take a ride on the 115. Its first journey will be on Tuesday 3rd May.

Here’s a timetable and a handy map showing the route

Parking meeting for Hills Road area

Parking surveysLast year, I ran a survey on parking in the streets between St John’s Church and The Marque on Hills Road, an area generating constant complaints about parking. There was a huge response, and it has taken me some time to collate and analyse the results.

Overall, there is a clear majority for parking controls, which could include a residents’ parking scheme. I have passed the survey results to Cambridgeshire County Council, who will analyse the responses and conduct a feasibility study before consulting formally on proposals for the area.

I have arranged an information meeting for residents of these streets, to find out how residents’ parking schemes operate . We’ll have the County Council Parking Manager there to field questions.

7.30pm, St John’s Church, Hills Road, Monday 8th February

Refreshments

For residents in the streets bordered by Blinco Grove, Cherry Hinton Road and Hills Road.

Here are the questions that came up most frequently in the survey:

PARKING QUESTIONS

Q: What are the costs of residents’ parking?
A: Residents’ parking schemes are self-funding, ie they are costed to pay for themselves. At present, participating in a residents’ parking scheme costs from £1 a week for a 9-5 Monday-Friday scheme (extra for more hours or including a weekend). The costs are under review so may change.

Q: What about visitors?
A: Residents are able to make an application for up to 12 visitor permits, which can be used for up to five visits; there is at present no limit to the number of applications. Anyone who has a permanent address within a given scheme (evidence is required such as driving licence or current utility bill ) can apply for visitor permits for their guests.

Businesses can apply for permits for up to three vehicles.

Q: What happens if I have carers or medical visitors who need to park?
A: There is a free medical permit scheme for people who need visits from relatives or health professionals. Your doctor will need to assess your infirmity or lack of mobility and provide an estimate of the number and frequency of official visits required. There are dispensations for medical professinals who attend emergencies or who carry special equipment.

Q: How would the library cope if there was a residents’ scheme?
A: It would be possible to include short-stay bays for the library or other community facilities as part of a scheme.

Q: Does a residents’ parking scheme guarantee a space?
A: It does not guarantee a space, but it makes securing a space much more likely.

Q: To whom should I report illegal parking?
A: Ring the County Council’s Civil Enforcement team on 01223 727 900. For dangerous parking, eg obstruction, parking on school zig-zags, or in bus lanes and cycle lanes, contact the police on 101.

For more information including application forms for permits, see http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/info/20018/parking_permits_and_fines/9/parking/2

Cross city cycling*

The Greater Cambridge City Deal has launched a consultation on five schemes designed to improve safety for people walking or cycling across Cambridge.

Accident clustersThe one that is of greatest relevance to us in Queen Edith’s focuses on the Long Road-Queen Edith’s Way- Hills Road junction, a key route for schools, sixth form colleges and Addenbrooke’s Hospital. It’s a difficult junction to negotiate by bike or on foot, with fast-moving traffic coming from all directions and it’s a known accident cluster, as shown on the County Council’s map. I have lost count of the times people have said the latest new cycle lane being built on Hills Road should have started at this junction, rather than just after it.

It’s an expensive project, and the money on the table is from the City Deal, a government-funded infrastructure programme granted by Nick Clegg when Deputy Prime Minister during the coalition government.

Exhibitions

There is a programme of exhibitions showing the proposals, and two are in our area: Addenbrooke’s on 18th January, and St John’s Church on 3rd February. Alternatively, you can see plans and comment on line, on the City Deal website. The consultation is open until 15th February.

* Not, as it looks, a description of the city or the cyclists – better with a hyphen, I think!

Do you have strong opinions?

I know many people in Queen Edith’s have strong opinions on a range of issues. That’s what makes life interesting!

If you are one of them, then would you be interested in taking part in a new TV programme on the important issues of the day, debating with a panel of politicians and business leaders as well as other members of the public? It’s designed to go further than Question Time and similar programmes, by giving citizens equal terms with the decision makers.

They are looking for anyone with strong opinions about what’s going on in the country and the world today. If you would be interested in taking part, please get in touch with me.

 

Apply days and scary scarecrows

Amanda's apple tree

Amanda’s apple tree

Autumn’s a lovely season, blessed with warm golden colours and sometimes graced by unexpected sunshine. It’s also the time of year when we celebrate that most English of fruits, The Apple.

We have TWO Apple Days in Queen Edith’s (please tell me if you know of more!): one at Rock Road Library Garden and one at the Rock Allotments in Baldock Way.

Apple juicing 2015Both the library and the allotments events had apple presses for juicing apples, plus a good selection of apples to taste. Juicing apples by hand is hard work: you need a lot of apples for what seems like a small amount of juice. The results are worthwhile – though drink the juice quickly while it’s fresh.

I enjoyed tasting some apple varieties I hadn’t even heard of. For example, this morning at the allotments I discovered the Histon Favourite, raised by John Chivers — of Histon.

Scarecrows: Class of 2015

Scarecrows: Class of 2015

The other fun today was judging the Rock Allotments scarecrow competition. Have you noticed these fearsome characters who have appeared in the allotments this week? What crow would even dare thinking about nibbling an apple with one of these fearsome characters on guard?

Councillors have to take hard decisions, and this was a tough one. In the end I had to go for Elsa the Fairy Scarecrow, produced by Raewyn, aged 4. Raewyn’s even donated some of her shoes to Elsa, as well as her sunglasses. And that magic wand will certainly keep any avian marauders away.

The Allotments Society has grand plans for the coming months as they prepare to celebrate their centenary, with a 1918 allotment in preparation, to show what people used to grow a hundred years ago. Watch this space!

 

 

 

Streetlighting switch-off: councillors to discuss on Monday

switchoff mapConservative county councillors and County Council Highways officers are proposing to switch off streetlights between midnight and 6am in an attempt to make the books balance, in the face of swingeing cuts to councils from the government.

We believe this will have an unacceptable impact on road safety and on individual safety in Cambridge, given the high numbers of residents and visitors who are about after midnight or early in the morning.

A report on the lighting switch-off will be discussed at the South Area meeting on Monday evening.

Here is a link to the full agenda. There’s also an open forum session, an update on the late-running Hills Road cycle lanes and a report on environmental services in the south of the city (rubbish, graffiti and vandalism).

The meeting is open to the public and anyone can speak. If you cannot attend but would like to make a point, please contact me or one of the other councillors.

7pm, Monday, St John’s Church, Hills Road.

LOCAL BLOGGER CHRIS RAND HAS WRITTEN A DETAILED REPORT OF THE DISCUSSION AT THE MEETING. Read it here.

Call-in councillors

The following county councillors requested that the Full Council review the decision to allow Kora to open an Enterprise Centre at Cambridge Central Library: 12 Liberal Democrats, 6 Labour, 4 Independents and 4 UKIP.

1. Cllr Scutt
2. Cllr Kavanagh
3. Cllr Sales
4. Cllr Taylor
5. Cllr Manning
6. Cllr Cearns
7. Cllr Mason
8. Cllr Ashwood
9. Cllr Jenkins
10. Cllr Leeke
11. Cllr van de Ven
12. Cllr Downes
13. Cllr Shellens
14. Cllr Williams
15. Cllr Hipkin
16. Cllr Giles
17. Cllr Lay
18. Cllr Divine
19. Cllr Bywater
20. Cllr Ashcroft
21. Cllr Wilson
22. Cllr Nethsingha
23. Cllr Onasanya
24. Cllr Walsh
25. Cllr Crawford
26. Cllr Van De Kerkhove

+ Cllr Gillick, whose request was received after the 3-day deadline

Kora — kaput

rescind On Friday, Cambridgeshire County Council‘s Highways & Community Infrastructure Committee rescinded its earlier decisions to allow Kora-Regus to set up an Enterprise Centre in Cambridge Central Library.

Conservatives on the County Council, who had previously voted through the proposal en bloc (first in March and again in June), this time voted to rescind the decision and for council officers to identify alternatives.

Councillors from the Liberal Democrat, Labour, Independent and UKIP groups had opposed the Kora plan on the grounds of inadequate evidence as well as its impact on the library service. We were especially angry about the clandestine way in which the Kora project was pursued by officers. An Freedom of Information request by Paul Lythoge revealed that there had been 37 secret meetings between the council officers and Kora. A confidentially agreement had effectively suppressed information from members of the Council charged with responsibility for the library service.

The decision was first taken in March. I opposed it, but the Tories and the UKIP vice-chair voted it through. I was successful in leading a call-in resulting in the decision being reconsidered on 2nd June. This time I was not the only councillor to vote against as the vote was 6-7; again, the BluKip band rubberstamped the officers’ proposals.

It was only when the Kora MD was exposed as being in the middle of a disqualification by the investigative local blogger Phil Rodgers that the Tories withdrew their support.

Tory Cllr Steve Crisell described himself as “embarrassed, disappointed and angry” and vowed to investigate individuals concerned, but acknowledged the “goodwill and ideas” of the library campaigners.

The committee passed a motion to rescind its previous decisions and also:

“To request the Executive Director of ETE to identify alternative options for increasing income at Cambridge Central Library by working with Central Library staff, an elected members group and library users to explore all options which may include developing a cultural and educational centre for Cambridge and the County”.

Koragate – the latest

Liberal Democrats on Cambridgeshire County Council continue to defend Cambridge Library against the Council’s proposals to let Regus subsidiary Kora open an Enterprise Centre on the third floor.

The call-in of the Highways & Community Infrastructure Committee (HCI) decision succeeded and the LEC proposal went to the County Council’s General Purposes Committee (GPC) in March. Cllr Roger Hickford proposed a motion instructing HCI to consult, provide more information and then reconsider – and that is what was passed. What was missing was further work on alternative options to Kora.

The Library Service did consult, with two presentations by Roger Perrin, MD of Kora: one for councillors and one for the public. They created a new section on the LEC as part of the general library consultation, which was extended to allow time for people to have a say on the LEC.

An energetic and determined group of campaigners has been working on raising awareness and lobbying councillors, as well as carrying out research. One campaigner, Paul Lythgoe, submitted an FoI request to flush out the Council’s dealings with Kora. It was answered – much later than legally required – and revealed a copious series of meetings between officers and Kora.

There was a strong public attendance at the HCI committee meeting on 2nd June, with speakers raising concerns about probity and transparency as well as about the uncertain financial case – the anger at the loss of library space almost eclipsed by the fury at the way in which the decision was taken. Despite stellar performances from the public speakers and from Cllr David Jenkins, who gave us a presentation showing the flawed methodology behind the officers’ figures; the proposal was agreed for a second time – this time by 7 votes to 6. Jocelynn Scutt (Lab), Mike Mason (Ind), Gordon Gillick (UKIP) and Peter Ashcroft (UKIP) voted with Lib Dems Barbara Ashwood and myself, while UKIP’s Peter Reeve voted with the Tories to allow the proposal to sneak through.

We called it in again, this time to Full Council; working with Labour as well as with the library campaign group. We were advised by the Council’s Chief Legal Officer that it was not possible to re-call it to H&CI for a third consideration, as that would be an ‘abuse of process’. But from our point of view, Council would provide the opportunity to explore procedural issues such as secrecy, lack of competition, and procurement protocols.

In the middle of all this came yet another dramatic revelation. Phil Rodgers, a Lib Dem member, discovered that Roger Perrin, who styles himself ‘Global Managing Director’ of Kora, is disqualified from being a director and that he has already had one business fail, leaving over £1.5m of debt.

We continued with the call-in to Council, which succeeded, closing on 26 names from all four opposition parties, including some councillors who had previously backed the proposal. There will be a special council meeting, probably on 9th July, to review the motion. However, the HCI chair Roger Hickford has reacted by calling a special meeting of HCI to consider the LEC – surprising this is allowed, in view of the ruling we were given before. House rules?

I believe we still need to take this to Council because the Kora case has highlighted some deep faults in council practice, that need to be addressed at a higher level than one committee – especially as that committee has been found wanting twice on this issue.